Escape from the Empire!

A Rising Threat

Game Sessions 1-4

_They say Osradin was a land of wonders, a shining point of light in a dark, uncivilized world. They say that world, that light, is gone forever, taken from us by the dragons who first forged it with fire, fang and spell. Over two decades after that amazing land was lost, those few who lived through Osradin’s collapse, and those of us born after the fall, were more concerned with surviving in a hostile world than restoring our fallen nation. But there were those of us who refused to live in darkness. When a monstrous empire rose in the south, promising civilization in exchange for freedom and the lives of our brothers, heroes, men I had known since childhood, rose up to oppose it. I know not if they shall prove victorious. Their foes are powerful and united in terrible purpose, while their allies are feuding and few. I commit the portion of their tale I know to this tome, in the hope that even should these heroes fail, the Stone Crows shall never forget their sacrifice.

It had been 22 years since the dragons’ began their rampage, and 12 since they had thankfully departed our lands for lands unknown. Since that time, my people, the misfits and outcasts known as the Stone Crows, had grown into a strong, if small, nomadic tribe. We were shepherds, scavengers, warriors and thieves. Spring was nearly at an end and we were preparing to move to cooler climes, lest our fat, black flocks wither in the unrelenting heat that was surely on its way.

As we packed up our sparse possessions, our leader, that one-eyed old Goliath known as Kavak the Quick, announced that one of our brothers never returned with his herd. Saumel, a kind old soul, had been a day late in returning to the tribe. Surely, he had only been delayed by a lost lamb or a mangy wolf, but would no one help our aged brother home? Many of us volunteered, but the group that found old Sam was to about to begin a journey that would change their lives, and the fate of our tribe, forever.

My brothers searched for the old shepherd for hours, when they heard a faint horn, blaring on the winds. One long blast, followed by two short ones. It was a cry for help that our people had used for nearly a decade. My brothers raced towards the sound, and hopefully, Samuel.

They soon found old Sam in a dire state. He was frantically defending what was left from his flock from snarling, reptilian beasts. These drakes had taken several of his flock already, and a particularly large, red brute was determined to make Sam his next meal.

My brothers fell on these beasts like an oncoming storm. Jett, with fierce spell, Winnish, with stinging sword, The Monk, with terrible fists, Rangrim, with psychic force, and Bilon, with the wrath of his goddess, Avandra. The drakes nearly gutted my brothers there and then, but with their powers combined, they were able to save a grateful old Sam and most of his charges.

Shaken, Sam told his rescuers how he came to be in such a state. While gathering his flock, he encountered the wreckage of a wagon, complete with fallen steeds. Having not seen even a single horse since before the fall of Osradin, he felt he had to investigate despite the danger. His flock didn’t share his enthusiasm, however, and fled as he approached the strange conveyance.

Suspecting a threat to our people, my brothers helped Sam on his way then made to investigate the site where the shepherd had seen the wagon. They soon found it, only to be ambushed by a pack of ghouls from Tiam-Krey. Long the enemies of the Crows, it was odd to see these cannibals so far from the ruins of that once great city. These horrors were soon vanquished by my kin, who then proceeded to look at the ruins of the wagon. It was of recent manufacture, driven by a dragonborn woman with a strange, silver spike thrust into her throat. Apparently, she had been slain by the ghouls, but where had she come from? She had strange tattoos, perhaps indicating she came from a far-off tribe, but if she came from a people who still had easy access to mounts and craftsmen, they were certainly better off than our own. Some of her possessions bore a dragon-skull symbol, the meaning of which we would all learn much too soon.

Upon their return to the tribe, Sam’s rescuers came upon a group of heavily armed strangers, dangerous looking humans and hobgoblins. I approached my brothers, and warned them as best I could, asking them to speak to our leader about our unwelcome guests. Kavak had been negotiating with this strange new tribe, called the Prepotency. They flew the banner of the dragon-skull, and claimed to be from an empire with many great cities and thousands of soldiers. Their leader, who claimed to be a Centurion in one of his Emperor’s many legions, said he could summon many far off warriors in moments through the power of his advisor, a strange shardmind he called an Opti.

These soldiers claimed to want peace between our people. They even had an ally from the Rivermen tribe, a people who had once been closely linked to our own. However, they demanded that we surrender any dragonborn in our tribe to them, claiming they were responsible for the last war and could not be trusted in their new Empire.

After Kavak discussed this with his closest advisers, he rejected this proposal, refusing to surrender any of our tribe. The Prepotency soldiers agreed to go on their way, promising us trade rights in the future. We were all suspicious of this so-called Empire, though, and Kavak asked Sam’s rescuers to scout ahead to our summer campsite, a few days in advance of the rest of us.

The heroes began their journey soon after, defeating some strange, slime-covered monstrosities on their way to our summer grounds. When they arrived, they found that not only had the Prepotency claimed the site as their own, they and their Rivermen auxiliaries had constructed a fortress. Hopelessly outmatched, they dispatched some Rivermen scouts and their Prepotency leader, then rushed to bring this news to the rest of the tribe.

Pursued by horrid barghests, shape-shifting scouts of the Empire, my brothers made their way home and warned Kavak of these new events. He gave a rousing speech to my people, but called together his advisers once more to discuss this new threat. Some of us threatened caution, others a reckless assault, but in the end Kavak decided to do what he had done so well in the past. He decided to hide. He knew of an old hunting lodge deep in the mountains to the West and thought the Crows could make a temporary home there

At this time Bilon, noble cleric of Avandra, volunteered to seek out allies. He would take a small group East, to treat with the Five Fangs and warn them of the Prepotency.

After wishing Bilon a good journey, the rest of the tribe moved as swiftly as we could, hoping to find safety in Kavak’s new hiding place. Our scouts spotted a small troop of our enemies, and again our heroes risked life and limb on behalf of our people, this time with Adara, a wandering cleric in the service of the Raven Queen by their side. As they advanced on the Legionnaires, they were bombarded by a strange, explosive device. Back with the main group, we were were assaulted by mad, howling barghests charging through our ranks. As my brothers tried to flank the enemy, the Prepotency’s odd siege engine began to rain fire down upon the tribe. Eventually, those of us back with the main group were able to fight off the barghests, and our advance party destroyed the siege engine in a massive explosion, but there were losses. Several of our people had been torn to shreds, either by the barghests’ fangs or the arcane fires of the Prepotency’s massive cannon.

We buried our dead, scavenged from our enemies, and made our way to Kavak’s redoubt. When we reached it, we knew that we were in greater danger than we had realized. There was no way the area could support all the Crows. There was little to graze. Our livestock would soon be dead. Once they were gone, we could be soon to follow. A new home had to be found, and quickly. The indomitable Rangrim offered to search for a lost dwarf-hold deeper into the mountains, hoping that would be a better place for the Crows to roost. What he and his allies would find would change our tribe forever._
-excerpted from a battered journal with a clawed cover, recovered by Legionnaire Alexix, in pursuit of the Stone Crow rebels

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Kadnod

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